Sustainability describes the degree to which something can be sustained. And we describe a system as being sustainable when it is designed and operated in a way that can be sustained indefinitely - it never reaches a breaking point or faces the prospect of self-induced decline.
A system is a group of interacting parts and processes that form a unified whole. A garden can be thought of as an ecological system. A human being can be thought of as a biological system. The operating system on your computer is a technological and information system. The point is that we can think of and define almost anything as some kind of system.
Thinking about things as systems is a very useful kind of thinking. From this perspective we can recognize the inputs a system requires and the outputs it produces. We can then ask questions like, are we able to sustainably acquire these inputs? Can we sustainably manage these outputs?
The Bigger Picture
We think of our garden as a system. In order to produce the vegetables we want, our garden system requires a wide variety of primary inputs, such as:
Water, Carbon Dioxide, Organic Material (Compost), Physical and Mental Labor, Seeds, Electricity, Packaging
And beneath these inputs we also ask, what resources are required to, say, "get seeds"? Well, they're delivered, so there's a truck, and gas, and roads, and the labor provided by the driver, etc. There's also the seed grower, our upstream supplier, and the inputs they require to run their operation. And what about their suppliers? And so on.
We're concerned about the sustainability of our farm but also in the demand that our farm generates through our purchases and practices. That's to say, we're also concerned with the sustainability of our supply chain.
Given that our civilization has not been built in a way that prioritizes sustainability, progress can be challenging and hard won, but such is our objective.
Below we'll highlight some of our sustainability wins and what we're working on.
Produce like microgreens or salad mixes require packaging. And our CSA shares come bundled in a bag.
All of our packaging, from microgreen containers to salad bowls to bags are made from sustainable materials.
In the case of these plastic containers, they're a compostable plastic* made from plant products.
* These plastics are compostable in a commercial composting facility, not back yard composters. Since our area doesn't have a green waste recovery program, we're investigating how we can step-up to close this gap.
Many veggies we grow rely on an army of volunteer pollinators: bugs.
In fact, there exist entire industries of bee keepers who rent their insect laborers to farmers to pollinate their crops.
And in some places, some pollination activities have entered the realm of human labor. More work? Hard pass.
In order to keep our pollen partners sheltered and well fed, we maintain a number of pollinator gardens.
These gardens are seeded with flowers and plants selected specifically for their capacity to support and nurture beneficial insects. They also look spectacular!
In the field our plants use their biological solar receptors to convert sunlight and other raw materials into sugars.
Closer to home, our solar array produces enough clean energy to provide for all of our needs, and then some!
Our system has been oversized to accommodate our future electric vehicles, our current gas cars being the last we'll ever have.
Trees & Woodland Restoration
We are proud participants in and supporters of Forests Ontario's 50 Million Tree Program.
This program, like many others throughout the world, seeks to skillfully increase the amount of forested land on the planet.
The program helps create habitat for wildlife, improve soil & water quality, prevent soil erosion, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
To date we have planted over 9,000 coniferous trees on our property.
Rows of year old seedlings.